COLUMBIA — Sixteen-year-old Bailey Owen of Trenton is one half of a roping team.
As the header, it is his responsibility to call for the steer. This means he tells the chute operator when to release the steer. Once he has roped the steer's head, he must then turn the steer into position so the heeler can rope the steer's heels. All of this must be done in a matter of seconds.
What: Missouri High School Rodeo State Finals
Where: Boone County Fairgrounds, 5212 N Oakland Gravel Road
When: June 12 — 16
Friday, June 14
9 a.m. — Slack second performance
1 p.m. — Shooting contest
7 p.m. — Second performance; Cinch All-Star Team to be announced and 2013 Missouri High School Rodeo Cutting Champions to be announced
Saturday, June 15
7 p.m. — Short go for Top 12 in each event after second performance; 2013 Senior Class to be announced; 2013-14 Queen to be announced
Sunday, June 16
8 a.m. — Cowboy Church
9 a.m. — Awards Ceremony
Full schedule available at www.mohsrodeo.com Look for the link that says finals schedule.
But Owen isn't the only one from Trenton competing at this week's Missouri High School Rodeo State Finals. Trever Ratliff, another 16-year-old, is joining him this year at the Central Missouri Events Center in Columbia, and they are both looking for a chance to advance to this year's national high school competition in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Both cowboys also compete in calf roping, an event that requires the contestant to rope a running calf. The calf is then thrown to the ground where the contestant then wraps a second rope called a pigging string around any three of the calf's legs. The clock is stopped after the cowboy throws up his hands. Again, this is done in a matter of seconds.
Owen practices calf roping on horseback for about 3 hours per week and puts in extra time roping a dummy.
Ratliff has facilities and animals at his home, so he tries to practice every night, and both he and Owen record performances to find things to improve. They practice team roping for 2 1/2 to 3 hours a week, which they admit "isn't enough."
Ratliff also competes in the steer wrestling and the saddle bronc events. Although he he didn't qualify for this week's finals in saddle bronc, he is in the top of the standings in steer wrestling.
Owen, who has been competing for two years, got started when his stepfather, who also rodeos, asked him if was interested in getting involved.
Like Owen, Ratliff has also been competing at this level for two years and got involved at an early age. He grew up around horses, and his grandparents also rodeoed. His grandfather competed in all of the roughstock or bucking animal events and calf-roping. His grandmother competed in the barrel racing.
Apart from the saddle and rope, Owen relies on another larger piece of equipment — Butterbean, a quarter horse he uses in the calf-roping. For the team-roping, he uses a horse his partner owns.
Ratliff has a horse for each event. He uses Yeller No. 1 for calf roping, Yeller No. 2 for team roping, Moe for steer-wrestling and Cookie to haze (keeping a steer running straight when another cowboy is steer wrestling).
Ratliff said he finds the steer wrestling to be the most challenging mentally. "It takes a lot of courage to jump," he said.
His mother, Charla Ratliff, worries most about him competing in the saddle bronc.
"He's in control when he comes off the horse in the steer wrestling," she said, "In saddle bronc, its however you come off."
Owen and Ratliff's partnership arose out of mutual interest and need. They had gone to school together since kindergarten and both got into roping at the high school level, so they teamed up. They also share a role model in Trevor's grandfather Ron Ratliff, who has imparted much wisdom to both boys.
Both said calf roping is their favorite event for the same reason. "Because you don't have to rely on anyone else," Ratliff said. But they both love the camaraderie that comes with rodeo.
"The best thing about rodeo are friends and the competition," Owen said.